I thought about going to see a film in Leeds later this week. I generally prefer British independents or subtitled films but I like to have a choice. When I looked through the cinema listings for Leeds I discovered that every single film on offer was in English – and virtually every one was a mainstream American or British film. Leeds is a major city. It has suffered from the lack of a specialised cinema such as those that once formed part of the BFI’s Regional Film Theatre network. The council still own the 1914 Hyde Park Cinema which often has excellent programmes (as attested by many of Keith’s posts) but with only a single screen it is sometimes dominated, as in this week, by a film like Rush. The Vue in the city centre usually has something different on offer such as a British independent or a Hindi film, but not this week.
Leeds has been promised an art cinema/specialised cinema for some time and at one point it looked as though a City Screen might open but it didn’t. Then earlier this year Everyman opened a three screen cinema in the new Trinity shopping centre. As expected, it is an expensive cinema (i.e. for the region at £11) but we did expect it to show some decent specialised films. The offer today is Diana, Rush, Insidious 2 and About Time. What a joke! The original Everyman in Hampstead was where I first saw most of the 1960s canon of art cinema. I weep when I think of what the name means now – stuffing your face with pizza watching Hollywood.
So with a population of 800,000 and something like 43 or more cinema seats, Leeds can’t offer a film in any other language than English tonight. The nearest sanity is in Bradford (The Great Beauty, Wadjda at the National Media Museum and several Hindi titles at Cineworld or the Odeon) or Sheffield for the Showroom. I read a comment somewhere in the last few weeks suggesting that subtitles are ‘difficult’ with the implication that cinemas find it hard to programme foreign language films. With this kind of attitude I seriously fear for the diversity of cinema in the UK. No doubt we will return to this topic.
One of the classic tableau shots of the Edwards family in The Searchers.
This evening class at the National Media Museum in Bradford offers the chance to study three films currently on release and to explore how ideas about the family can be exploited to develop different kinds of film narrative and different genres. There are seven sessions on Wednesday evenings from 25 September, 18.15 – 20.15.
The three films are Looking for Hortense, Metro Manila and Like Father, Like Son – all screened in full in the museum’s cinemas with a short introduction.
The first of these films is a comedy drama set amongst the ‘creative/academic’ bourgeoisie of Paris in which family relationships constrain and ‘trip up’ the central character with comic effects. The second becomes a genre thriller when it tests what characters will do to keep the family together. The final film is a form of family melodrama/relationship drama. Since the films come from different filmmaking cultures (France, Philippines/UK and Japan) there will also be the opportunity to explore the extent to which genres and representations of the family are ‘universal’ or heavily skewed by ‘local’ cultural considerations. We’ll also consider a range of other films that use the family as an important driver of the narrative. The image at the head of this posting refers to the famous John Ford Western in which Ethan Edwards (John Wayne) searches obsessively for his two nieces who have been taken by a Comanche raiding party.
A course outline can be downloaded here: (pdf) FamilyCourseProg
We’ll try to post some of the handouts here over the next few weeks and also to discuss some of the issues that arise.
With the flurry of postings last week, The Case for Global Film passed 1,000 individual postings. The 1,000th post was on Vicky Donor. Our stats tell us that we have a regular group of visitors that is steadily growing but that most of you visit us when you are looking for something specific on a film and on average you visit just under 2 separate postings on your visit. Perhaps you aren’t aware of the vast array of material (approaching 1 million words and thousands of images) that we hold?
The best way to get the most out of this blog is to have a quick look at the How to navigate this site page and discover how to search through the material.
We are moving forward onto the next 1,000 now, so watch this space! Suggestions for better ways of organising the material are always welcome.
The latest statistical yearbook of film in the UK is now available for free download (or online access) from the BFI website. The 2012 yearbook has all the details of film in the UK in 2011 – a particularly good year for the UK industry.
London's Prince Charles cinema – home to the 'Indie Mainly' crowd?
The UK film market has a new audience research model to contend with. Film3Sixty spent six months interviewing 18,831 people across the UK and digesting the results according to a report by Wendy Mitchell in Screen International, 27 January 2012. Their conclusion was that nearly 90% of film watchers think that cinemas are the best places to watch films – but that they think that cinemagoing is getting more expensive. The conclusion is that this reflects unease with 3D pricing but presumably it also reflects the impact of the recession.
The report summary makes for interesting reading. The sample was drawn from the most frequent cinemagoers – the 40% of the audience who account for 80% of admissions. The sample overall watched an average of just over 120 films per year of which just over 17 were in the cinema (the per capita figure for UK cinema visits is under 3). Two-thirds of the films watched outside cinemas were ‘not paid for’ – mostly on TV but sometimes via pirated copies. The research did however confirm the often quoted observation that those who admit to piracy are also the heaviest cinemagoers.
The headline finding/suggestion is the breakdown of these ‘frequent cinemagoers’ into four groups:
Blockbuster Only – 10%
Blockbuster Mainly – 59%
Indie Mainly – 29%
Indie Only – 2%
This breakdown can be compared to the ‘qualitative study’ of ‘avids’ for the UK Film Council, downloadable here. This was part of the UKFC approach which divided audiences into four groups – Mainstream, Mainstream Plus, Aficionados and Avids. The two sets of categories are actually quite similar, but this new research offers more detailed data. In both cases the categories run from the occasional interest in tentpole pictures through more diverse tastes to a rejection of Hollywood and an ‘obsession’ with specialised films (the avids). What’s quite interesting is that the new figures – based on a survey of the most frequent cinemagoers – demonstrate the commercial importance of diversity. We can see this in two ways. The majority may prefer blockbusters, but 31% actually opt mainly for ‘independent films’ – whatever that might mean. On the other hand, we can say that a bigger majority of 88% are interested in at least a range of films (i.e. not just blockbusters). This seems to send a different message than the usual assumption that the audience for more specialised films is only a tiny percentage of the whole.
The survey further tells us that the ‘Blockbuster‘ groups are more likely to be female (53-56%) and younger. The blockbusters they like are comedies and rom-coms. They are also more likely to watch TV, own games consoles, buy the most home entertainment products but also to pirate movies. It’s ironic that these audiences who prefer big budget films are less likely to see them in cinemas – these are the lightest cinema attenders. The heaviest cinema users are the ‘Indie Mainly‘ group who are 52% male with an average age of 44.5 years. They are also the most likely to buy DVDs, to stream films online and watch them on computers. They are also the heaviest Twitter users (whereas the Blockbuster groups are the heaviest Facebook and YouTube users). The report suggests that social media use is an area the film exhibition industry needs to think about much more – quoting a respondent who has 43 Facebook friends who he frequently persuaded to make cinema visits. A stand-out observation is that those who are influenced by social media are likely to make up to five times as many cinema visits as the average cinemagoer. Some people clearly take the ‘like’ button seriously.
So what of the 2%? We (certainly me – the others can speak for themselves) are most likely to be male (55%), aged over 54, least likely to pirate but also least likely to ‘consume’ DVDs. We prefer drama and foreign language titles and we are the lightest users of Facebook. Apart from the DVDs that sounds like me!
On the whole this looks like a pretty useful breakdown of the audience in terms of frequent cinema users. I do recommend the UKFC Research as well. The discussion of avids is fascinating and it’s interesting that the research did try to look quite carefully at the very frequent cinemagoers – many of whom work in the film industry or in film education (although quite a lot of the film teachers I meet seem to go to the cinema only occasionally). The real avids see two movies a week at the cinema – a figure I would struggle to achieve without the boost of festival screenings. Such dedication is of course only possible for avids if they live somewhere with a diverse range of films available in several cinemas rather than just a single multiplex with only Hollywood on offer.